The incidence of meningococcal disease is currently at historic lows in the United States; however, incidence remains highest among infants aged <1 year. With routine use of Haemophilus influenzae type b and pneumococcal vaccines in infants and children in the United States, Neisseria meningitidis remains an important cause of bacterial meningitis in young children.
Data were collected from active, population- and laboratory-based surveillance for N meningitidis conducted through Active Bacterial Core surveillance during 2006 through 2012. Expanded data collection forms were completed for infant cases identified in the surveillance area during 2006 through 2010.
An estimated 113 cases of culture-confirmed meningococcal disease occurred annually among infants aged <1 year in the United States from 2006 through 2012, for an overall incidence of 2.74 per 100 000 infants. Among these cases, an estimated 6 deaths occurred. Serogroup B was responsible for 64%, serogroup C for 12%, and serogroup Y for 16% of infant cases. Based on the expanded data collection forms, a high proportion of infant cases (36/58, 62%) had a smoker in the household and the socioeconomic status of the census tracts where infant meningococcal cases resided was lower compared with the other Active Bacterial Core surveillance areas and the United States as a whole.
The burden of meningococcal disease remains highest in young infants and serogroup B predominates. Vaccines that provide long-term protection early in life have the potential to reduce the burden of meningococcal disease, especially if they provide protection against serogroup B meningococcal disease.